School board agrees on Apple settlement

Administrator not to return

MIFFLINTOWN — A settlement agreement between the Juniata County School District and former Juniata High School principal, Edward Apple, may affect the consequences related to felony theft charges against him at the Court of Common Pleas in Juniata County, but will ensure his employment is not reinstated with the district.

The board unanimously approved the settlement Thursday during its regular meeting.

According to Scott Etter, the district’s solicitor, Juniata County District Attorney Cory Snook agreed to accept Apple into an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program on his felony charges — provided the school district is agreeable — and in exchange, Apple will withdraw a pending appeal he has with the state secretary of education, which challenges his dismissal.

Apple’s dismissal was approved by the board in a 7-0 vote in September. Board members Amy Wagner and Danny Snyder were not permitted to vote due to a lawsuit filed by Apple’s attorney claiming bias against Apple.

The vote followed weeks of hearings that were held after the school district accused Apple of taking steel tables and other items from the now-closed Lack-Tuscarora Elementary School for use on his private hunting grounds on New Year’s Day and for misconduct related to using money from a “slush fund” to purchase a birthday lunch — which included alcoholic beverages — at at Mifflintown restaurant during work hours.

As part of the agreement made on Thursday, the district will not oppose Apple’s entrance into the ARD program as a consequence for the criminal charges against him.

The criminal charges were filed after former superintendent Keith Yarger submitted his letter of resignation. The resignation caused widespread speculation among members of the community, which prompted Snook to direct the Pennsylvania State Police to launch an investigation.

As a result of the investigation, Apple was charged with multiple felony counts of theft and conspiracy to commit theft, along with Yarger.

Etter said Apple will execute a release so he will have no claim against the school district.

If the board had not approved the agreement, “the worst case scenario for the district would be that the secretary of education would reverse what the board had done to dismiss Mr. Apple or that if the secretary did not reverse, that a commonwealth court appeal might do that. If that were to be the case, Mr. Apple would be reinstated as an administrative employee. He would be entitled to back pay from the time his salary was ended and you would have to bring him back as an administrator at or about what his pay was prior to this happening,” Etter told the board of directors “None of that will happen with this agreement.”

Etter said he, as well as attorneys Howard Kelin, of Lancaster-based law firm, Kegel, Kelin, Almy and Lord, who represented the board of directors and Lewistown attorney Orris Knepp, who advised the superintendent during the due process hearings “wholeheartedly endorse” the agreement.

“We understand that there are other considerations, but we believe in balance that this is the best way for the district to move forward,” Etter said.

Etter maintained that Apple would not receive payment as a result of the agreement.

Board member Joseph Shearer said he is disappointed with the outcome, but felt his vote is what was best for the district.

“I wanted to see a trial. I think this is their way of saying they’re guilty … I know a lot of people are going to be upset that they didn’t go to trial. I’m one of them,” he said.